Today is World Community Arts Day. Its goal is to encourage people to participate in the arts – singing, dancing, drawing, writing and any other creative activity. Their website says:
“All we ask of you on that day is to do an arts project, however small or big on the 17th Feb 2010 or as near to the date as possible.”
Participating in an arts project, especially with others, is a rewarding experience. I remember the thrill I felt when I played in pipebands. Standing in a circle or marching with the band, surrounded by the powerful wall of sound several sets of pipes produces is an exciting experience. I felt a sense of belonging and pride. I was awed by what we could create together. I had the same thrill when I sang in a choir during my teens. The volume was lower but being engulfed by the beautiful melodies and harmonies gave me the same sense of wonder (and as long as I sang quietly, no one noticed the odd bum note from me).
Last night I participated in a different form of artistic expression. The Fermanagh Creative Writing Group meets each week to read each other’s work and offer constructive criticism. Writing is a solitary occupation so I appreciate every chance I have to meet and discuss our work with fellow writers. (Our group will also be sharing our work with the public in the Enniskillen Museum during the Fermanagh Arts Festival mini-fest at the end of this month).
Arts activities – music and the written word – have always enriched my life. They are an important part of my life and many other people’s lives. I believe the arts, in every form, should be encouraged. Organisations that support them are invaluable in this role. But, in this period of spending cutbacks, many of these organisations are struggling to survive. One such group that was severely hit is the Creative Writers Network in Northern Ireland. It provided valuable services for writers including weekly news bulletins, workshops and mentoring programmes. For writers who do not have access to a local community of writers it was an invaluable support. But when its grant funding was withdrawn it could not continue. Its closure was a huge disappointment and loss to writers across Northern Ireland.
So, on World Community Arts Day get involved in the arts today – sing, dance, write, draw or whatever else you can dream up. And also support arts groups in your community, and the organisations that help them, in any way you can. Arts activities make our world a richer place. Help them thrive.